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Articles from 1995 In March

Role Model For Tech Transplants

Role Model For Tech Transplants

Plymouth, MN- Some successful European engineering firms bring their most popular technology to the U.S., only to be mystified by a lukewarm response from the market. Well-established American companies often struggle with the same disappointment when attempting to transplant technology.

Not so with Turck Inc. Founded in Germany some thirty years ago, the sensor manufacturer opened shop in Minnesota in 1976 and has averaged 23% annual growth over the past five years-despite a lackluster economy. Today, some 200 of the firm's 1,000 employees work in the U.S.

Innovative products are only one element of success. What distinguishes Turck, says President and CEO Bill Schneider, is familiarity with customers' industries. "You can't just translate an overseas catalog into English," he says. Instead, Turck engineers focus on applying the company's core technologies to specific U.S. markets.

Many firms overlook the basic needs of an application when attempting to export, says Schneider. For example, "to suit American automotive production machinery, such as welding equipment, one very simple thing we did was change voltages," he explains. The Europeans use low-voltage dc. The U.S. auto industry wants ac. Likewise, where European customers like small connectors, the American auto industry prefers larger, more-rugged connectors. "It's a mentality difference," explains Director of Marketing Murray Death. "So we keep the base technology and change the packaging." Today, automotive markets account for some 25% of Turck's business.

Of course, meeting performance requirements is only part of customer satisfaction. To keep pace with constantly evolving automation processes, Turck application engineers maintain close customer contact. "We listen to the customer's changing needs-because they may not know what's possible with the latest technology," says Death.

A two-way exchange. Turck engineers regard each customer as both client and resource, says Death. "The customer thinks in terms of the product; we think in terms of function. Once we understand what they really need, we go a step further. We try to anticipate their needs."

Often, the result is a significantly more versatile product. Case in point: the Uprox(R) proximity sensor. Unlike previous designs, the Uprox detects all types of metal at the same sensing range. The switch's three-coil design uses a plastic core instead of a conventional ferrite core. Switch actuation depends on oscillator voltage, not the energy in the coil, when a target comes into range.

Because it has no ferrite core to become saturated by outside magnetism, most welding and electromagnetic fields won't affect it, says Chief Engineer Bill Eaton. The lack of an oscillating ferrite core, he claims, enables the device to switch as much as ten times faster than conventional sensors.

For automation processes that involve a variety of metals or must be flexible to new target materials, the Uprox can do the job of several sensors, say Turck engineers. "There's always been a demand for proximity sensors with longer sensing ranges-and that wasn't possible before. The combination of market need and the engineer's experience came together," says Death.

Turck introduced the Uprox at the end of 1993, and sales have steadily increased. As with any new technology, there is some hesitation on the part of the customer, says Death. "Because down-time is so expensive and industrial control engineers have seen so many products come and go, they're skeptical. But now we're starting to see customers change their design to Uprox. And next year will be even better."

Turck recently did a market survey that confirmed what engineers know: Customers want availability. Says Schneider: "To have a machine go down and not be able to get the part is just disastrous. That's why we have manufacturing in the U.S." Turck's newest facility is a cordset manufacturing plant in Golden Valley, MN.

"We have to satisfy the OEM with performance and technical information for the design of his machine, but we also have to satisfy his customer that it's available locally," says Death. "Our strategy is to make both the OEM and the end-user comfortable. They have different needs."

Design cues from industry. Most Turck products are general-purpose sensing packages, although many are tailored to a particular automated process. "Often we hear six or seven customers saying kind of the same thing, so we design a general-purpose product that's somewhat custom-designed," says Schneider.

Often, new product design cues come from leading companies in an industry, such as metal working or injection molding, says Schneider. "It works very well to have one or two leading companies sponsoring a product. We make it very clear up-front that we're making a general-purpose product. We tell them "we'll help you solve your problem, and you'll get it first.'"

Turck's Sensoplex(R) Bus remote I/O system is a good example. To simplify wiring, the system allows direct interconnection of field devices, such as sensors and actuators, to a controller via a single coaxial cable. With the help of customer feedback, Turck engineers designed the Sensoplex to directly interface with the programmable logic controllers many customers use, such as AEG Modicon PLCs. The system also works with Siemens S5 and other PLC brands via a master station hardware interface. Turck offers an iSBX interface for industrial computers.

For the same reasons, the Sensoplex system complements the DeviceNet open network communications standard introduced by Allen-Bradley last year. The results are encouraging: Ford recently chose the Sensoplex for its Mondeo plant in Genk, Belgium. "The customers drive us and we drive them," says Death. "It's a mutually beneficial balance, supported by R&D in Germany."

When a customer can't use a standard Turck product, or even a modified one, Turck engineers design something very specific. When a custom design can't be broadly applied to other markets, Turck will share R&D expenses, such as hard tooling, with the customer. "We put their name on it, then they're our partner in that market," explains Death.

As worldwide standardization gains momentum, the sensor business will change, predicts Schneider. "Now it's more subtle. Some products we sell in Europe are now being accepted by the U.S. auto industry. Leading companies like Ford are going through an evolution." What remains important is support of the product, availability, and contact with customers. "Lots of European companies come to the U.S. with their standard product," says Schneider. "The companies that listen to what the customer is saying will get the market share."

A 6th sense for the factory floor

A 6th sense for the factory floor

That's what Positek Ltd. has done with its series of long- and short-stroke linear induction position sensors (LIPS). Mounted in the sensor itself, the electronic interface allows oscillation frequencies of up to 2 Mhz.

Traditionally, high-performance inductive position sensors call for coils with many turns of fine copper wire, leading to relatively bulky designs. Such low-frequency designs also require highly-permeable, high-cost target materials, such as nickel- and silicon-iron. Conversely, less bulky coils with lower turn count resonate at high frequency and can use thicker wire. The reduced time period between oscillations, however, makes synchronous demodulation difficult to achieve.

LIPS locks synchronous demodulation to the signal via custom IC, eliminating the potential for measurement errors. This, in turn, allows high-frequency oscillation. Benefits not only include smaller coils and printed circuit techniques, but low-cost target materials like aluminum and stainless steel. "Performance is midway between an encoder and a potentiometer," says John Francis, Positek director. "LIPS durability puts it miles ahead of the pot in life cost, despite being a bit more expensive to start with," he adds.

While encoders offer high accuracy, Francis says LIPS has the advantage of being an absolute device: "Unlike an incremental encoder, a reading is available at switch-on with virtually infinite resolution," he says.

The new design also makes the sensor particularly suitable for use in areas with high magnetic fields. Rotary versions have been developed using similar principles.
John Francis, Positek Ltd., Queen St., Chedworth, Gloucester UK, GL54 4AG, Tel/Fax: +44 1285 720489.

Replicate the sense of smell

Unlike light or sound, the sense of smell is a chemical process with no scale against which the intensity of an odor can be measured. Established methods of measuring smell involve human inspectors or gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The latter is slow and complex-more suited for a laboratory test than production process-while the former is inconsistent.

Now, researchers at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) have identified a number of conducting polymers that can be used as transducers for selected individual or mixed chemicals. This development work has led to a commercial system made by AromaScan.

"When interacting with volatile chemicals at room temperature, polymers require only microwatts of power, and can be correlated to specific compounds," says K.C. Persaud, who heads the development team at UMIST. He describes the new product's operation as follows:

The instrument draws chemical volatiles from a sample over an array of 32 polymer sensors, each synthesized to be specific to particular classes of compounds. In the process of absorbing the volatiles, the surface of the sensor undergoes a change in electrical resistance.

Signals from all the transducers generate instantaneous data sets, visualized as bar charts. Processing through a neural network permits recognizing aroma patterns and labeling them against standard patterns.
Chris Tullett, AromaScan plc, Electra House, Electra Way, Crewe, Staffs, UK, CW1 1WZ, Tel: +44 1270 216444, Fax: +44 1270 216030.

Interconnect smart sensors

Smart sensors send packets of information rather than mere data. A web of smart sensors, connected to a PC or PLC through a single bus line, lets sensors communicate not only with the PC/PLC, but with each other. Developed by Honeywell's Micro Switch Div., the Smart Distributed System (SDS) concept offers three advantages to machine control:

Increased reliability. The sensor's ability to identify itself and offer information regarding its working status can save thousands of dollars of downtime. Limit switches, for example, can watch for passing parts on a transfer line, and signal the PLC to stop the line when necessary. If the switch malfunctions, the SDS self-monitoring capability enables it to recognize the malfunction and stop the line before a jam occurs.

  • Low-cost installation. Instead of routing miles of wiring between a raft of sensors and a PLC, SDS employs a wiring scheme in which each sensor connects to a bus line of four cabled wires. The well-established Controller Area Network (CAN) communications architecture, developed by Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany, gives the high speed and small size needed for SDS.

  • Less complexity. Unlike conventional sensors which send a stream of digital signals back to the PLC, SDS sensors monitor a process. As a result, "the controller doesn't have a flood of data coming into it," says Ronald E. Sieck, vice president of marketing, Micro Switch. Honeywell engineers, therefore, predict that PLC manufacturers will soon simplify their designs, possibly condensing four printed-circuit boards into a single board in some cases.

Marilyn Smit, Honeywell Micro Switch Div., 11 W. Spring St., Freeport, IL 61032, Tel: (815) 235-5731, Fax: (815) 235-5574.

Convert color to analog signals

Color is the reflection of light at specific frequencies. The two most widely-used techniques to measure color involve passing the ambient reflection through colored filters, or generating a light beam and measuring the different quantities reflected.

Sensortek Ltd. employs a different approach. Its color sensor passes the ambient reflection through a diffraction grating, which acts like a prism. The light, split into its component wavelengths, strikes an array of three photo-diodes tuned to red, green, and blue. The diodes, in turn, produce three analog signals proportional to the color level on the blue-green, green-red, and grey scales. The signals are transmitted to a PLC or other control equipment for analysis, processing, and output.

Wade Olsen, technical support manager at Sensortek, explains that the sensor can be tuned to memorize a specific color shade. "The control unit," he says, "provides a digital output each time the sensor sees that particular color."

Additionally, an operator can specify the level of matching from fine tuning to broad banding. By cascading the signal to other controllers, as many as 20 different colors can be measured from each original set of signals. "Manufacturers are already using the sensor in monitoring bread as it bakes, paint as it dries, and for the detection of adhesives, electronic components, and colored textiles," Olsen says.
Wade Olsen, Sensortek Ltd., PO Box 222, Bury St. Edmunds, Sufolk, UK, IP28 6EE, Tel: +44 1284 728150, Fax: +44 1284 728155.

Employ some fuzzy logic

For Omron Corp., sensor development targets smaller size, combined functions, and the addition of self-diagnosing/self-adjusting capabilities. The general direction is what the Osaka-based company calls "microsmart" components. Yoshiaki Niimura, a supervisor in sales development, envisions sensors combined with fuzzy processors, data transmitters, and power controls.

This concept takes form in Omron's new four-channel optical fiber photoelectric switch. The company says the E3X-NM incorporates two industry firsts: connection of four optical fiber sensors in parallel; and, at the push of a button, it determines for itself whether to operate in a through-beam or reflective mode.

A fuzzy logic interface supports the product's mutual non-interference technology. Fuzzy logic inference distinguishes each sensor's own light from the light of adjacent sensors, based on the light waveform. If one sensor detects light from the other sensors, it will slightly vary the timing of its own signal to avoid interference. This feature, says Niimura, allows close bundling of the four sensors.
Omron Corp., 3-4-10, Toranomon, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Tel: +81 3 3436 7139, Fax: +81 3 3436 7029.

Expand photoelectrics

Introduction of the XUB-J and H photoelectric sensors from Telemecanique makes this mature technology available for highly-transparent materials. The new products are sensitive not only to objects in glass or PVC, but also to those manufactured in polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a resin increasingly used for packaging food products.

Claimed as the smallest cylindrical sensors on the market, the XUB-J and H measure just 18 mm x 55 mm (0.7 inch x 2 inch). Maximum sensing distance is 80 cm (31 inch).
Michel Rochon, Telemecanique, Schneider Electric SA, 5, rue Nadar, 92566 Rueil-Malmaison Cedex France, Tel: +33 1 41 29 84 16, Fax: +33 1 47 51 96 71.

Control temperature influences

Dewit Industrial Sensors adapts its technology to industry with its magneto-resistive Quadro-flux(R) sensor. Built from four permalloy strips connected in a wheatstone bridge configuration, the new sensor reduces unwanted temperature influences (max 120 degrees C). Here's how it works:

An external magnetic field twists the internal field made by the permalloy strip to produce the magneto-resistive effect. The change in resistance affects the balance in the wheatstone bridge. Consequently, a voltage at Vin induces a voltage across Vout in relation to resistor size. Vout changes in relation to the change of the internal resistance.

Because the magneto-resistive effect is fast, the sensor works with frequencies up to 25 khz at 1.5 mm (0.06 in) range. Industrial applications, besides revolution counting, include: recognizing direction using a phase difference between output signals, or by using a high/low signal; and non-contact angle sensing, such as controlling valve position.
Pim Wieske, Dewit Industrial Sensors bv, Beaufortlaan 24, 3768 MJ Soestduinen, The Netherlands, Tel: +31 2155 27568, Fax: +31 2155 27547.

Simplify sensor configuration

Sensor-transmitters that have a small display and keypad can prove difficult to configure. The restricted number of keys on the housing requires a complicated menu structure and multiple key operations. With its Smart Series of sensors, Honsberg solves this problem by including an infra-red transmitter/receiver in the sensor electronics.

There are flow, level, pressure, and temperature sensors in the Smart Series, but, in principle, the electronics section can be matched to any front-end sensor. Honsberg supplies the sensors in a plastic housing, complete with an LCD, four arrow keys, an indicator LED, and an IR transmitter/receiver. Device configuration includes such parameters as limit switch settings, sensitivity, displayed units, zero setting, and linearization.

Either Honsberg or the user can configure the device. However, with only a four-key keypad, this would be tedious. The easier way is to download the complete configuration into the unit's EEPROM, using a hand-held IR transmitter/receiver. A minimum amount of permanently resident boot software handles the IR communication. Additionally, the hand-held unit can interrogate the sensor to change settings, or act as a data logger.
R. Bisek, Honsberg & Co. KG, Postfach 110369, D-42863 Remscheid, Germany, Tel. +49-2191-9672-34, Fax. +49-2191-9672-40.

Integrate linear stroke transducer, electronics

For recording linear distances up to plus or minus 8 mm (0.3 inch), Magnet-Schultz builds a carrier-frequency oscillator and output amplifier into its type A WE F 008 line of linear stroke tranducers. Designed like a differential transformer, the inductive tranducers house one primary coil and two secondary coils.

Position of the soft-magnetic core within the coil combination determines the magnetic flux between the primary and secondary coils. The working principle is straight-forward: Placing an excitation voltage across the primary coil induces different voltages in the secondary coils, depending on core position. Because the secondary coils are series-connected in opposing directions, the output signal is linearly proportional to the voltage differential between the two secondary coils.

If the core is halfway between the primary coil and the two secondary coils, the induced voltage is the same in each secondary coil. Phase shifting by 180 degrees produces an output signal of zero. A protective housing allows wet/dry applications.
Magnet-Schultz GmbH & Co., Postfach 1665, D-8040 Memmingen, Germany, Tel: +49 8331 104-0, Fax: +49 8331 104 333.

A big market for micromotors

A big market for micromotors

Appointed Interelectric AG's Chief Executive Officer in 1993, Mayer began his 28-year career with the company in its development department where he was involved in the design and launch of maxon motors. Mayer started to build Interelectric's worldwide sales network in 1970, which now covers 25 countries, and until the end of 1992 he headed Sales and Marketing. Mayer, a mechanical engineer, is also a specialist in microdrive technology and is a member of several industry advisory committees and commissions.

Supplying the multitude of product variations in a rapidly expanding marketplace, says Mayer, calls for close attention to quality, cost, and customer demands.

Design News: The high performance of maxon's DC motors depends, in large part, on the company's patented moving coil rotor design. Please explain briefly how this technology works.

Mayer: Our moving coil technology is well known these days. The moving copper coil, which forms the core of a maxon motor along with the magnet, has many advantages, such as high efficiency and acceleration due to the moving coil's low inertia; no magnetic detent; low inductance for longer life; and a linear relationship between voltage/speed, speed, load/speed, and load/ current. The only drawback of this product is the cost compared to conventional drives.

Q: Advances in electronics and magnet quality have outpaced similar improvements in associated mechanical transmission systems, making ball screws and gearing the limiting factors in motion control. How can better motor design bridge this gap?

A: The moment certain "prophets" in the world of drive system technology brand mechanical elements as outdated, there will be a problem. The fact is that for the micromotor business, a substantially higher integration of motor components will increasingly help to bridge this gap in the future. But there is always the question of cost analysis, which ultimately is the key factor for specific customer needs.

Q: Often a drive system's electronics package compensates for mechanical tradeoffs. How important is CAD in promoting concurrent design of both the electronics and mechanical sides of a drive system?

A: From both the mechanical and electronics perspective, the components market today, with all its diverse variations, needs an efficient CAD system if it is to satisfy international requirements. Additionally, as a cost-oriented construction system, CAD is an important element within the framework of our complex operational/ management system, and we view it as a key competitive advantage for maxon.

Q: Since the creation of the maxon motor trademark in 1970, Interelectric AG has become a world-wide supplier of high-performance servomotors, precision gearheads, and electronic motor components. What is the key to creating an international product line?

A: I cannot answer that question in a couple of lines, but in short, looking back over my 28 years at Interelectric, I would say it is probably the determination to be the market leader and to be the best in terms of quality. Also, a certain amount of entrepreneurial luck, good employee relations, and a constant dedicated drive to meet customer demands are of equal significance.

Q: In what ways are ISO criteria important to maintaining a global presence?

A: The process of Total Quality Management is a must for our precision products to be successful in difficult global markets. As early as 1987, Interelectric was one of the first 10 Swiss companies to be awarded the important ISO 9001 Certificate, and to date has twice been successfully reassessed.

Q: What markets currently account for most of your business, and what industries do you see as the biggest growth areas in the future?

A: We currently trade with thousands of customers based in 35 countries in the industrialized world. We focus principally on the manufacturers of medical instruments, computer peripheral equipment, measurement technology, car construction, robots, and handling systems. We see the future growth rates in mechanical engineering and areas of communications technology gradually becoming as high as those in microtechnology. From today's perspective, America, Germany, and the Far East (principally Japan, China, and Korea) will remain or become the largest market areas.

Q: Japan has invested considerable effort into developing ultrasonic wave motors, while three-phase steppers are gaining popularity. What do you see as the general trend in electronically-controlled small motor design?

A: The "ironless motor" will have even greater importance in electronically-controlled small motors because of its enormous advantages, all of which are far from exhausted. For many years, Interelectric has been involved in all kinds of motor technology, and in our view, piezo-ceramic microdrive systems with submicron resolutions and no electromagnetic interference have great prospects for the future. The market will ultimately decide between fact and fiction on this issue.

Application Digest

Application Digest

Avoid Damage with Rear-Drive Grippers

By Gary Rosengren, Engineering Manager, Tol-O-Matic

To prevent such damage, engineers can use the new drive-from-behind RotoGripper(TM). It has a fixed gripper housing that allows air lines and a sensor to remain stationary while the gripper jaws rotate free of restrictions. Adjustable stops consisting of polyurethane bumpers limit the gripper's rotational travel.

In any given application each component-the rack-and-pinion rotary actuator as well as the gripper-of the RotoGripper must be sized correctly. Users must choose the proper angular or parallel gripper, keeping load requirements and safety factors in mind.

When specifying a rotary actuator, the user must consider actuator bore size according to its torque requirements and bearing load capacities. If the rotary actuator will physically stop the load, the user must calculate the rotational mass moment of inertia. Next, the kinetic energy per stop must be determined. With this information in hand, the user can decide if standard adjustable stops consisting of polyurethane bumpers can handle the energy. If not, more substantial cushions, or shock absorbers, may be required.

A patent application on the new RotoGripper is currently in process.

To speak to a Tol-O-Matic applications engineer, call:(800)-328-2274.

Laser Triangulation Expands Measurement Options

Robert J. Dwulet, Product Manager, Aromat Corporation

As motion-control and factory-automation systems continue to evolve towards higher performance and cost effectiveness, they depend more and more upon fast, accurate and affordable sensors to measure or profile distance.

Though quick and highly accurate, laser-based interferometers can cost tens of thousands of dollars. In contrast, two-thousand-dollar laser-diode-based sensors represent a powerful dis- tance-measurement alternative whose development and applications are mushrooming.

Laser-diode-based sensors use optical triangulation to measure distance. They offer a number of advantages. For example, low cost (triangulation is a simple calculation), high accuracy and precision (resolutions to 0.2 aemeter), immunity to surface roughness, reflectivity, or color changes, and linearity (as tight as 0.1%).

In addition, the sensors provide a wide operating range-standoff distances from 33 to 250 mm, and flexible system configuration. One- or two-laser systems can be used. Easy calibration, offset, output-error, and zero-point adjustment characterize the laser-diode-based sensors. Furthermore, they offer a versatile interfacing capability. The sensors can be configured to provide raw analog output, GPIB, IEEE 488, RS232C, or 16-bit parallel data, and compatibility with SPC packages. These flexible, versatile devices reduce material waste and save money (which implies a short payback).

To speak with an Aromat applications engineer, call (800) 228-2350.

Tiny Sensors Assist Medical and Robotic Research

Tiny Sensors Assist Medical and Robotic Research

Garner, NC- Dental researchers wanted to measure bite force and direction. Robotic engineers wanted force and torque measurements on the fingers of a robotic glove. Prosthetic developers wanted accurate force figures on wrists, fingers, and toes. Rehabilitation researchers wanted to measure the progress of patients under therapy. An employer with workers at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome needed a way to monitor the problem.

All these folks, and others, found what they needed in two new sizes of F/T (force/torque) instruments from Assurance Technologies, Inc. that function as sensors and transducers. Force/torque sensors measure both force and torque simultaneously in the x, y, and z axes.

Both the Mini and Nano sensors are scaled-down adaptations of the three-beam, six-axis Gamma unit (see DN 1-20-92, page 114). Outside diameter of the Gamma unit is 2.9 inches, the Mini measures 1.57 inches, and the Nano is 0.67 inch-smaller than a dime.

These small units use the same basic three-beam configuration as their larger sibling. This similarity of design does not mean, however, that the scale-down was just a matter of dividing dimensions by the ratio of diameters. For example, the Gamma unit includes a PC board that carries the amplifying and multiplexing electronics. To help shrink the Minis and Nanos, engineers placed the board in a separate box at the end of a 71-inch cable. From there, the multiplexed signal goes to the F/T controller that resolves the six axes of force/torque information.

Larger units use overload pins to protect the sensing mechanism from massive overloads. Because the small versions do not have room for pins, engineers use sensors that are EDM-wire-cut from 13-8 VAR stainless steel with a yield strength of 205 ksi. Maximum allowable overload values are six to eight times rated capacities.

  • Measuring insertion forces

  • Measuring assembly torques

  • Constant-force grinding

All of the units employ silicon strain gages, but the smaller ones use much different proprietary mounting techniques. "I don't think we will try for a device smaller than the Nano," says Bob Little, mechanical product manager. "Attaching those 12 tiny gold-filament wires is not easy."

Researchers find that the Nano sensor/transducer fits nicely into the restricted spaces available in dental research. It also fits into the fingers of gloves which investigators are working with in robotics, prosthetic design, and physical therapy.

A Mini sensor/transducer monitors workers at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. With the sensor mounted on a knife used for cutting up chickens, the unit records the force the worker applies. If an individual's force readings decrease slowly over time, they may be indicating Carpal problems.

Additional details...Contact Cathy Knight, Assurance Technologies, Inc., 503D Highway 70 East, Garner, NC 27529, (919) 772-0115, Extension 134.

Designer's Corner

Designer's Corner

Solder sleeve

Making multi-wire connections directly on fixed or moving harness boards streamlines assembly. Here's how it's done:

Harness builders insert a bundle of stripped, multiple-conductor wires into the thermoplastic sleeve of a SolderGripa terminator. The sleeve contains a spiral-wound copper insert fitted with a pre-fluxed solder band.

With a light twist to the sleeve, the insert bites into the wires, compressing and holding them together. A hot-air gun completes the procedure by a) melting the solder, and b) shrinking the sleeve.

Used by Citroen's wiring harness shop in Rennes, France, the multiple wire terminator is available for sealed and unsealed closed-end connectors, as well as unsealed ring terminals.

In Europe: Cidric Bollori, Raychem S.A., 2, bd du Moulin-a-Vent, Cergy Saint-Christophe, B.P. 8300, 95802 Cergy-Pontoise, Cedex France, +33 1 34 20 23 65.

In U.S.: Kathy Kelly, Raychem Corp., 300 Constitution Dr., MS 530/7568, Menlo Park, CA 94025, (800) 272-9243.

Lightweight chain

Replacing two external plates with one internal plate makes it possible to offset the transport rollers of this patented chain. As a result, the valley between the rollers is smaller. Advantages include:

Reduced vibration

  • Fewer Components

  • Noise Reduction

  • Space Saving.

A version with parallel transport rollers carries heavier parts.

Achim Vissing, Joh. Winklhofer & Svhne GmbH & Co. KG, Postfach 702060, D-81320 Munich, Germany, Tel: +49 89 76909 131.

Temperature sensor

Car heater systems usually respond slowly and erratically to changes in cabin temperature because of difficulty in locating the temperature sensor away from hot spots. A new sensor with integrated mini-fan solves the problem.

The fan, which supplies a continuous flow of air over the sensor, makes temperature readings faster and more accurate. Its 12V brushless motor rotates at 2,800 rpm, produces less than 38 dBA of noise, and provides an air velocity of 1.1 meters per second with mesh >110 mm2. The sensor is a standard negative-temperature-coefficient resistance device.

In addition to improving performance, the ventilated temperature sensor makes cabin location less critical.

Mario Borzone, Birtron Ind Srl, Via Torino 21, 10044 Pianezza (TO), Italy, +39 11 9666411.

Rugged, Reliable Detector Monitors Motion

Rugged, Reliable Detector Monitors Motion

Martinsville, VA-In many industrial operations, it's important to know whether a mechanism is rotating or not. Unfortunately, some customary motion-detecting sensor arrangements produce a false signal if motion stops at the specific actuation point of the sensor. Sensor reliability also suffers from harsh operating conditions such as heat, dust, and voltage fluctuations.

Faced with the problem of keeping conveyors running in a rock quarry, David Minter developed a high-reliablity motion detector. His patented Zero-Motion Detection system cuts conveyor-motor power quickly if jam-ups occur. It has contributed to record production levels at the quarry, which employs eight of Minter's systems.

Each of Minter's systems includes a rotating metal target, one or two proximity switches, and two specialized timer relays. The metal target has one or more cutouts or voids that pass by the proximity sensors. In the two-proximity-switch version, switch 1 detects the void and starts timer relay 1. When switch 2 detects the void, it starts timer relay 2 and resets timer relay 1. The process repeats with neither timer timing out as long as the target keeps rotating.

If the target stops, whichever timer is running will time-out, triggering an alarm or shutting off power to the system. The user sets the time-out limits to fit his system's needs.

  • Machine tools

  • Conveyors

  • Materials handling gear

The switches and relays operate at normal line voltage. Connecting a tachometer to the output of a proximity sensor adds speed-control capabilities to the system. Optional counters permit count-up, count-down, reverse, speed change, and other functions.

To demonstrate the system for this writer, Minter tossed a two-by-four into the auger of a screw conveyor. The timer cut power to the motor and the system stopped without such consequences as sheared keys, broken chains, tripped thermal overloads, or other trauma. He removed the two-by-four, pressed Reset, and the system was up and running.

"This system is not affected by dust, dirt, and grit such as we encounter every day in the quarry," says Minter. "We even have a unit operating under water."

Additional details...Contact David Minter, RPM Detection, Inc., Box 3091, Martinsville, VA 24115, (703) 632-8718.

Piezo Actuator Resolves To 10-6 Meter

Piezo Actuator Resolves To 10-6 Meter

Sunnyvale, CA- Photonics engineers measure success with the finest of rulers-wavelengths of light. In the laboratory, these measurements require optical elements of the highest precision positioned to sub-micron accuracy. Aligning such optical-bench setups can be nightmarish. Simply touching an adjustment knob may ruin the alignment of a lens or mirror that previously required minutes of tedious tuning.

"Everything is rubber at the scale we're talking about," says Frank Luecke, vice president and head of engineering at New Focus. Inspired to ease the adjustment process, Luecke invented the Picomotor, a patent-pending piezo-driven actuator that provides sub-micron resolution without backlash, hysteresis, or creep.

It consists of an 80-pitch, 3/8-inch-diameter screw clamped between two spring-loaded, aluminum-bronze jaws. A piezoelectric transducer drives the jaws in opposite directions when voltage is applied-the greater the voltage, the larger the displacement. Cutting voltage relaxes the transducer, and spring tension returns the jaws to their original positions.

To cause the screw to rotate, and not simply oscillate, the jaws move slowly in one direction and then quickly in the other. Slow movement turns the screw, while fast movement-due to inertia-slides the jaws against the screw and causes no rotation. The underlying principle is the same as that which allows a magician to yank a tablecloth off a table without disturbing the china.

To control the Picomotor, an electronic driver module generates 120V waveforms. A waveform with a fast rise time and slow decay turns the screw counterclockwise, while one with a slow rise and fast decay turns it clockwise. Holding position requires no energy.

  • Telescope optics

  • Lab instruments

  • Precision mechanisms

Each waveform rotates the screw approximately 115,000th of a turn and moves the screw less than the rated 0.1aem. At its maximum rate, the screw turns about 3 rpm. The waveform shape that produces the best motion is not obvious. After accounting for the spring force, friction, inertia, and viscosity of the lubricating grease, what began as a simple sawtooth evolved into a complex and proprietary shape. "We've seen a tenfold increase in speed over the sawtooth with the current waveform," says Luecke.

A sophisticated power supply interacts with the piezo transducer to reduce voltage and power requirements. It exploits the piezo's capacitance to flush energy in and out of the Picomotor with each waveform pulse.

New Focus isn't the first company to offer fine trim for optical mounts. But backlash, creep, limited travel, or the need for continuous power handicapped previous solutions.

New Focus offers Picomotors with screws from 0.5-inch to 2-inches long and has incorporated the motor into pure-rotary stages as well.

Additional details...Contact Frank Luecke, New Focus, 1275 Reamwood Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089, (408) 734-8988, FAX: (408) 734-8882.

Silicon Valley, meet 'Silicon Glen'

Silicon Valley, meet 'Silicon Glen'

Edinburgh, Scotland--You've heard of California's Silicon Valley--and maybe the Silicon Hills of Texas--but how about Silicon Glen?

A 70-mile-wide area stretching across central Scotland-which includes Glasgow, pioneer shipbuilding city, and the cultural center of Edinburgh-Silicon Glen is where five of the top ten PC and workstation makers have manufacturing or design operations: Digital Equipment Corp., Compaq Computer, IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard. In fact, 10% of the world's and approximately 40% of Europe's PCs are produced in the region, as well as 35% of Europe's workstations.

Over 400 foreign high-tech companies-including about 200 U.S. firms-have manufacturing and service facilities in Silicon Glen, which employs more than 52,000 people. Electronics surpasses even whiskey as Scotland's biggest export. Electronics-related products last year accounted for more than $7.5 billion, or about 43% of Scottish exports. Notable U.S. electronics companies with Scottish locations include Motorola, National Semiconductor, AT&T Global Information Solutions (formerly NCR), and Solectron. The chip companies share more than 11% of Europe's total semi- conductor capacity.

Technology and innovation are not new to Scotland. Consider this:

Robert Watson Watt headed the research project that gave Britain radar to track down enemy aircraft in World War II. The research was done in Scotland to avoid the German bombing of England.

  • Edinburgh-born physicist James Clark Maxwell-ranked as one of the greatest physicists and scientists of all time-discovered laws governing electric and magnetic fields.

  • James Watt invented the modern steam engine in Scotland in 1765.

  • Scotsman John Napier in the 16th century invented logarithms and the first calculating machine, called Napier's Rods. The two inventions led eventually to the slide rule.

Still, when most Americans think of Scotland, they conjure up visions of kilts, bagpipes, whiskey, salmon, sheep, and castles. During my week's stay, I saw (and sometimes tasted) all these traditional offerings. But I also visited five U.S.-based companies-all of which were expanding-and talked with engineers from other companies, as well as with academics, studying such cutting-edge technologies as nanotechnology, voice recognition, and massively parallel computing.

Why Scotland? Companies cite a number of reasons for locating in Scotland. Chief among them are:

Government incentives

  • Quality of the workforce

  • Universities and colleges

  • Undeveloped land

  • Clean water supply

  • Network of supporting services

  • Ease of transporting goods to the rest of Europe

  • No language barrier-English is the native language.

Slightly smaller than the state of Maine, Scotland's population totals 5.1 million. Unemployment in 1993 averaged 9.6% out of a workforce of 2.51 million. These statistics are courtesy of Locate in Scotland (LIS)-a UK government agency that helps foreign companies establish operations in Scotland. The agency offers custom incentive packages to U.S. companies considering Scotland for European manufacturing operations. The packages can include: grants, tax breaks, and recruitment and training assistance.

According to LIS, the quality of the workforce is the number-one reason for foreign investment in Scotland. LIS backs this up with these statistics: Productivity in the electronics sector has risen 8% per year since 1986, and unit labor costs are 8% lower than the UK average. Absenteeism is the lowest in the UK, and labor turnover is generally less than 5%.

Also, companies in Scotland can take advantage of Britain's negotiated exemption from the European Union's "social chapter," which imposes a variety of worker-protection regulations on corporations.

High-tech workforce. The country's 54 colleges and 13 universities produce more than 10,000 graduates per year, with 50% receiving degrees in science, mathematics, or engineering. Eight of the universities have "Science Parks" attached to their campuses, enabling technology-based companies to carry out added research and development.

The links between high-tech firms and the universities and colleges are strong. For example, several companies I visited had work/study programs with local schools, and Cray Research has donated supercomputers to the University of Edinburgh's Parallel Computing Centre for shared research.

Foreign high-tech investment in Scotland, begun mainly as a manufacturing venture, has expanded into design work. "Innovative product development and research is going on in Scotland," says LIS Director Martin Togneri. "It's not just a place to bolt together boxes."

Land of Plenty. Because much of Scotland remains undeveloped, companies can acquire "greenfield" sites-large, undeveloped pieces of land where companies can build and expand as they see fit. Motorola, National Semiconductor, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems are all expanding their facilities.

Besides a long list of component suppliers, Silicon Glen's co-manufacturing support is one of the strengths of its electronics infrastructure. Services these subcontracting companies provide include: printed-circuit-board assembly, surface-mount assembly, mechanical assembly, cable harnessing, plastic molding, engineering design services, packaging, and manual writing.

One U.S. company that specializes in contract manufacturing of pc-board assemblies is Solectron in Dunfermline. The firm currently employs about 800, but a $15.5-million expansion should bring employment up to 1,000 by the end of the year.

Another aspect of the country's support network is its telecommunications system. Scotland offers direct-dialing facilities to 200 countries, and claims it provides the widest coverage in the world.

Some of the oldest U.S. investors in Scotland are: the former NCR Corp. (now AT&T Global Information Solutions), which set down roots in 1946; IBM, which arrived in 1951; Hewlett-Packard, which made the scene in 1967; and National Semiconductor and Motorola, which founded Scottish plants in 1969.

The third-largest employer in Scotland, IBM's Greenock facility, has 2,500 workers. It lays claim to being the world's largest PC manufacturing plant, producing about 1 million PCs a year, as well as computer monitors. The company's latest investment: an Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory to monitor and regulate electrical and electronic equipment so that it can operate without interference from any source of electromagnetic energy.

Greenock is also home to National Semiconductor's Analog Center of Excellence. The facility's 1,500 people work around the clock operating two 4-inch and two 6-inch fabrication lines that produce BiCMOS silicon wafers. The finished parts include: high-frequency amplifiers, op amps, and analog automotive chips. Also on-site is a 60-person design team that develops products for local-area networks.

Digital Equipment's plant in Ayr serves as the company's primary European manufacturing center for small computer systems and MicroVAX 3100 products. About 60 of the 1,700 employees are involved in product design, such as that of the Alpha AXP PC 150, based on the ultrafast 64-bit Alpha AXP RISC chip.

Compaq's largest manufacturing location outside America is in Erskine, which is also home to the company's international service and repair center. The plant makes both desktop and portable PCs and employs about 1,000 people.

Another computer maker, Sun Microsystems in Linlithgow, is the exclusive world manufacturer of the SPARCstation(TM) Voyager line of portable workstations. The plant also produces SPARCstation 5 and SPARCstation 20 desktop units, and has three state-of-the-art surface-mount-technology production lines.

"Scotland is the most cost-effective place to manufacture a new product outside the U.S.," says John Shoemaker, vice president of Sun's worldwide operations in Milpitas, CA. He says that the company solves all kinds of problems around the globe everyday by using its own technology and sending lots of e-mail messages. "The sun never sets on Sun," he adds.

I'll take the high road. Because it's part of an island, you might consider Scotland to be rather isolated, but transporting goods is not a problem. The country boasts four international airports, many shipping ports, and a rail system that hooks up with the English Channel Tunnel.

Using the "Chunnel" to transport goods from Glasgow to Paris takes 22 hours. Using trucks and the channel ferry-weather permitting- would take at least 100 hours, according to Dr. Alan McKinnon of Scotland's Heriot-Watt Business School. This transportation system is critical: Europe buys 70% of Scotland's exports.

The growing western European marketplace has almost 345 million people and a gross domestic product of $5 trillion. In today's increasingly global economy, American companies looking to test the international waters might want to start by exploring Scotland.

Motorola: Slowly overtaking Scotland

"The new chips we will produce will put Motorola East Kilbride at the forefront of the semiconductor industry not just in Europe, but across the world," said Jim Norling, European president of Motorola, after announcing another $392.5 million investment last fall. The expansion will bring total employment up to 2,550 and make the plant the largest single-site manufacturing operation in the country.

When it comes on line early next year, the new equipment will fabricate triple-layer, 32-bit CMOS semiconductors, in addition to the company's present double-layer chips. These chips include the flagship 68000 series microprocessors, digital signal processors, and 4-Mbit dynamic RAMs. "Our biggest challenge is to build capacity fast enough to keep up with demand," says Bill Matthews, European marketing and applications manager at East Kilbride.

More recently, the company announced that East Kilbride will be further expanded to develop smartcard hardware and software. In 1996, the plant will become the "center of excellence" for smartcard technology, and at the same time, a center for manufacturing automation technologies working with Scottish universities.

One of Motorola's biggest semiconductor customers is Motorola's Easter Inch facility-a 2,000-employee site that makes mobile cellular phones for Europe using the GSM digital standard, and for the rest of the world. A nearby R&D center develops automation systems, computer integrated manufacturing systems, enterprise modeling, and product-simulation systems for Motorola plants throughout Europe.

AT&T: Automating service

AT&T Global Information Systems in Dundee designs, manufactures, and sells "self-service systems," such as automated teller machines (ATMs). The 1,500-employee plant produces about 42% of ATMs worldwide. The 600-engineer staff also develops ATM technology for people who are disabled or blind.

Produced at Dunfermline, the company's latest, "fourth-generation" product is a line that offers interactive video marketing. These machines can provide information and services for everything from bank tellers, sales clerks, and travel agents to car-service centers. Three times more reliable than existing machines, the fourth-generation units will be available for service up to 99.9% of the time, say company officials. The screens can be seen in strong sunlight, are hardware and software compatible with existing systems, and can cope with 16 different currencies.

AT&T has strong links with Scottish universities. It recently demonstrated a prototype ATM that uses voice recognition to verify the identity of the card user. The unit was developed at the Dundee Institute of Technology. The company's latest contract with the Institute is for an artificial-intelligence expert system that will monitor ATMs for faults in both the electronic and mechanical components.

HP: Tops in telecom

Hewlett-Packard employs 1,100 at its three manufacturing units in South Queensferry. One unit designs, manufactures, and markets telecommunications testing and measurement instrumentation products for the company's worldwide market; a second unit develops and manufactures microwave equipment; and the third produces low-volume, high-specification printed-circuit boards for HP plants worldwide.

Some of the latest telecommunications devices from HP are an asynchronous-transfer-mode (ATM) module for its SDH tester, and a network management system for Signalling System No. 7, which is the central nervous system of the modern telecom network. GTE in the U.S. and Deutsche Bundespost in Germany have signed multimillion collar contracts for the system to detect fraud.

"Most telephone companies are victims of telephone fraud. The problem is estimated to cost $10 to $15 billion annually worldwide," notes Telecom Systems Division Manager Tom White. "Our network management system can detect different types of fraud."

Embedded PC's Reduce Design Risks

Embedded PC's Reduce Design Risks

PCs are spreading their wings. Not only are they sitting on millions of desktops and laptops in businesses, homes, and schools, but they're hiding in such applications as vending machines, laboratory instruments, and communications and medical devices.

Using the IBM PC architecture, embedded-system designers can reduce development costs, risks, and time to market. If the target system is truly PC compatible, they know their software will run after they write it on the desktop. Another critical advantage: The PC's widely available hardware and software usually prove far more economical than those of traditional embedded buses, such as the STD, VME, and Multibus.

Putting a PC to bed. You can embed a PC two ways: Use a PC motherboard, or buy a single-board computer designed for embedding. Most designers opt for the second route. Standard PC motherboards and associated card cages and backplanes contain too much bulk for most embedded control applications.

So companies such as Ampro, WinSystems, and Epson have miniaturized the PC-without losing any of its functionality. These boards range from 80386-, 80486-, and Pentium-based units, nearly identical to the motherboard versions, to the lower-end 8088, 80186, and 80268 boards, which are more specialized.

Torrance, CA-based Epson has shrunk the PC motherboard into a package the size of a credit card. Ampro Computers, Sunnyvale, CA, originated the PC/104 form factor, which WinSystems in Arlington, TX, and other companies also offer. These modules measure 3.6 x 3.8 inches (about the size of a 5.25-inch floppy-disk drive), and can be stacked and connected through a PC-compatible bus. In addition to CPU modules, PC/104 modules drive displays, accept PCMCIA cards, and add serial ports. They also attach to non-PC/104 boards that have the 104-pin connectors.

In tune with the electronics industry, embedded PCs continue to get smaller, faster, and cheaper. Designers are already embedding Pentiums and taking advantage of the PCI bus to move 32-bit data.

One place PCs are hiding is in airplanes. ARNAV Systems, Inc., Pu-yallup, WA, supplies the ICDS 2000 Integrated Avionics SmartSuite for the ST-50 aircraft. The single-pilot, 5-seat, all-weather business executive aircraft will sell for about $1,000,000. Designed by Cirrus Design Corp., Duluth, MN, it's made in Tel-Hai, Israel, by Israviation, a subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Euroaviation SA Holding. The company expects FAA certification of the aircraft in 1996.

In the ST-50, the ICDS 2000 serves as an instrument panel, and is controlled by a CoreModule/486 from Ampro Computers, Inc. The panel will have four 8 x 6-inch LCDs: the left- and right-side. Primary Flight Displays (PFD), left-center Multi-Function Display (MFD), and right- center Engine Instrument/Crew Alerting System (EICAS) Display.

The PFDs present standard horizon, attitude, airspeed, altitude, and directional guidance information. They can also display landing gear, flaps, and ground proximity annunciators.

The MFD features a moving map for situational awareness. Weather Radar, lightning, turbulence, icing, floor, ceiling, and visibility graphics are "painted" around the aircraft symbol on the moving map.

In addition to performing traditional engine monitoring, the EICAS-using NASA software-automatically compensates for changes in aircraft performance caused by altitude, temperature, drag, and engine aging.

The Flight Management System includes sensors for Loran and the Global Positioning System (GPS)-a series of satellites that uses triangulation methods to calculate latitude, longitude, and altitude. A 512-kbyte, solid-state disk stores geographical data such as rivers, mountains, and state boundaries.

PCMCIA cards-called Jeppesen NavData Cards-provide data on airports, navaids, and approaches. An optional PCMCIA DataCard can store up to 64 Mbytes of information, including terrain and manmade obstacles. PCMCIA devices are ideal for embedded applications-they're small, rugged, and low power.

Lynn Johnson, director of engineering at ARNAV, says that previous designs had used a microcontroller. "But for this project, an embedded PC fit our needs more precisely because of the graphics environment and the modular approach," he explains. Such modularity, he adds, lets ARNAV reuse the hardware and the software for future designs. This, in turn, results in "faster time to market because you don't have to re-engineer the PC."

There are some drawbacks, however, such as developing the software operating system. "We developed the application on DOS using a PC," Johnson reports. "But we run it under our own operating software. For FAA certification, you need access to the source code, which Microsoft won't give you."

In any event, ARNAV would have to write its own software. "You still don't lose the advantage in the development cycle because you can prove your concepts and algorithms independent of the operating system. When you compile the code to execute in the target environment, you're testing your operating system and how it interfaces with the software you've already proven."

The Ampro PC/104 modules ARNAV uses are the CoreModule(TM)/486-II and the MiniModule(TM)/VGA-FP for controlling the flat-panel displays. The CoreModule packs a 50-MHz 486SLC microprocessor, bootable solid-state disk, keyboard port, real-time clock, and programmable watchdog timer. Right now, ARNAV is using its own PCMCIA module, but is evaluating Ampro's PC/104 MiniModule/PCMCIA, which would stack on top of the other two.

Averting disasters. CAST, Los Alamitos, CA, turned to embedded PC products from WinSystems to develop the ADS Navigator for ship safety. The product, a navigation and position-reporting unit, employs the GPS.

Running under DOS, the device provides Vessel Traffic Systems and other marine location systems with current, accurate information on a vessel's identity, location, speed, course, and even Lloyd's of London registration number. When the vessel enters designated waters, the VHF-FM transceiver automatically responds to a Vessel Traffic Center with this data. The unit also features a display for harbor exit and entrance.

The technology was prompted by the Exxon Valdez accident that spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound in Alaska. The clean-up still continues. Law now mandates that all oil tankers that go in and out of the sound use such automated dependent surveillance equipment to insure safety and protect the environment.

The shipboard unit consists of a 12-channel GPS receiver, a marine beacon receiver to receive GPS corrections, a control/display computer with several ports, a power supply, and a liquid-crystal display with a touch screen. The embedded PC lets the unit operate independent of the other ship equipment, but it can also be integrated with the ship's heading. Also on board the unit are the connectors for the GPS and marine receiver antennae and the VHF-FM receiver.

The GPS receiver automatically accepts differential corrections from a built-in marine band nondirectional beacon receiver. This information lets the device refine GPS accuracy from 100 meters to less than 10 meters.

Associate Engineer John Clark III helped design, build, and install the hardware. It now resides in oil tankers operated by ARCO and British Petroleum that ply the Alaskan coastline.

Why embed a PC? Answers Clark: "We have a lot of serial ports that communicate with different products in our unit, such as the beacon receiver, interactive display, radio, and GPS unit. The embedded design lets us do our own navigation and run independently of other ship systems. Also, we can interface the device to existing ship equipment, such as heading sensors and the radar system."

Clark adds that he couldn't use a microcontroller for the job because of the intensive data processing and the control lines. "The PC gives us more flexibility, a lot more control, and the ability to change the application as needed." CAST licenses MS-DOS 5.0, but just uses the basic command structure.

The WinSystems products inside the ADS Navigator include the SAT-486SLC-33 CPU board and the PCM-COM4 serial-port module. The CPU board measures 4.5 x 7.1 inches and is based on a 33-MHz Intel 486SLC. On-board peripherals include a real-time clock, two serial ports, one parallel port, keyboard controller, disk-drive controllers, PC/104 connector, and 4 Mbytes of dynamic RAM. "We add another 1 Mbyte of static RAM to embed our code, instead of using a hard-disk drive, and put the BIOS in ROM," says Clark.

The PCM-COM4-a rugged, low-power PC/104 module-provides four serial ports that transmit data at speeds up to 115.2 kbits/sec.

You wear it well. Another company that enjoys the benefits of embedding a PC is The Flexible PC Co., Northfield, MN. It has developed a PC "on a belt" for on-the-go applications. The company has fashioned the design as a belt, suspenders, holster, vest, and bandoleer.

The "ViA" consists of a flexible circuit board that interconnects a computer processor card, series of PCMCIA cards, standard I/O ports, docking port, and a flexible, rechargeable lithiumion polymer battery. Units can function independently with on-board memory or as network nodes.

The system also comes with miniature display options: eyeglasses, projected display or heads-up display. However, the product's real advantage is its hands-free operation based on voice recognition.

"ViA is ideal for those on-the-go people who require information on demand, anywhere, anytime," says company president David Carroll. He cites such applications as safety reminders and verification, training, stock and inventory management, and equipment operation.

Epson America's Cardio miniature motherboards serve as the system's heart. Flexible PC uses both 386- and 486-based cards. Both versions include ROM and RAM and VGA, keyboard, and floppy-disk-drive controllers. Although the same size as a PCMCIA card (85.6 x 54 x 5.5 mm), Cardio connects to the flexible circuit board via a side-mounted, 236-pin connector. (PCMCIA cards have end-mounted, 68-pin connectors.)

The embedded-PC approach means designers can upgrade the processor by simply replacing the card and can add lots of peripherals via PCMCIA cards. Here's a sampling of PCMCIA cards already available for ViA: wireless LAN nodes, hard-disk drives, flash memory, cellular phone, digital camera, sound card, sensor cards, modem, pager, and a voice-recognition system. Units should be available this summer.

Growing market. In 1993, the worldwide market for embedded PCs totalled $160 million. That breaks down to 132,000 units sold, says Don Carey, service director at market-research firm Venture Development Corp., Natick, MA. He estimates the 1994 market at $185 million with an annual growth rate of 12.7% through 1997.

"The leading application areas are industrial automation, communica-tions, medical, and transportation," he says. Carey also advises keeping an eye on the communications sector in the near future: "Embedded PCs in telecommunications applications could really take off."